RHONDA AND THE CHESSMEN
Lou Van Dora was a career musician. Lou toured extensively in the 70's with Phaedra and had a hugely popular Atlanta horn band in the late 80's early 90's called Lou's Blues Review. They got a lot of air play on Atlanta's 96 Rock with a blues version of the Beverly Hillbillies theme. Seriously. He opened an ill-fated club by the same name (Lou's Blues Review) in Atlanta in the mid '90's.
In 1964, I was asked to join a group already in existence called “The Chessmen.” It consisted of Mark Martin, who later performed with the Runaways, Jimmy Albright , and Frank, whose last name I don’t recall. He was a sailor at Glynco. Since that group was somewhat established it was their decision to keep the name and simply add mine in front – since I couldn’t be considered a ChessMAN. Although this was the beginning of my musical “career” the group changed within a year or so.
After the breakup of the Crusaders, LouVanDora joined as lead guitarist – he was quite the accomplished musician then and has only improved with the years! Lou also performed with Phaedra in the early 70’s, then with Rex (with Rex Smith). Sometime later he formed Lou’s Blues Review and, if you ever have the chance to hear them, DO! BoGodley played drums, Donny Chanclor played bass, and I played keyboards. The group at what I think was its best was in the late 60’s.
Rhonda later married Danny Butts who had played with the Moonrakers and other Brunswick bands, perhaps The Dark not sure. Don't know their current status.
Rhonda Morgan - organ
Lou Van Dora - guitar
Bo Godley - drums
Donny Chandler - bass
Bobby Sheppard - trumpet
Charles Matheson - trumpet
Steve James - trombone
Mike Dougles - vocals
Williard Collins - sax
David Collins - drums
Parker Stevens - vocals
the members changed somewhat through the years. Others who were associated with the group – although over the years, they all seem to blend together – were:
Rick Drummond lead guitar
Dennis Williams lead guitar (from The Gypsies, and later, Natalie and
The Final Touch ) who, as I understand,
now plays Christian music – I know he does a
great deal of sound work and hope that he still
performs. He also plays drums.)
Mike Roberson bass guitar (now deceased)
Mar Moseley bass guitar (from The Dark)
Bill Tresher bass guitar
Richard Willis bass guitar
Harry Aiken guitar and vocals
Parker Mullis lead vocals (from the Sound Sequence in Jesup)
Our only “brush with greatness” was opening for Question Mark and the Mysterians at the Jacksonville Beach Coliseum….and he was one strange dude! His group was friendly, but he kept to himself. Guess the star has to be like that!
In the summer of 1970 another group called Dust. This group consisted of the following:
Lou VanDora lead guitar and vocals
Randy Jordan drums and vocals
Bob Killian bass guitar
Rhonda keyboards and vocals
After graduating from college and returning to Brunswick in 1972, Rhonda played with a group called Skye, formed by Mike Herring (lead guitar and vocals). Others in that group (at various times) included Gary McKenzie (vocals and bass guitar), Frank Lunsford (bass guitar), Bobby Watson (bass guitar) Robert Kilby (drums) and, as we began seeing each other, Danny Butts (rhythm and vocals). They continued to perform with Skye until forming Trilogy.
Danny and Rhonda married in 1974 and in 1976 formed Trilogy, a three piece group that remained in existence until Rhonda filed for divorce in 1996 (or was it 1997?). They remained the constant members of that group; Danny played guitar and vocals and Rhonda played keyboards and vocals. Our drummers over the years included Wyatt Kersey (who also sang), Robert Kilby, and Herman Leist.
Band information courtesy of John Stevens 2005.
Rhonda and the Chessmen
Strangely, after a hiatus of over 12 years, I am now back into the music business, doing a duo with Mel Dixon, formerly with Frodo and the Hobbits and the Striking Resemblance, and the touring group, Avalanche, I guess you never really get it out of your blood!
Picture courtesy of Rhonda Morgan-Butts
Following pics courtesy John Stevens
Back row L-R: Robert Kilby, Charlie Matthiessen, Lou VanDora, Steve James, Jake Matthiessen, Mike Davis, Rhonda Morgan Butts, Donny Chanclor
The Big Green Bus